WASHINGTON – According to a report in Science, critical elements of one of the most cited pieces of Alzheimer’s disease research in the last two decades may have been purposefully manipulated.
According to the World Health Organization, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia worldwide. According to Science, the highly influential paper, published in Nature in 2006, has helped guide billions of dollars in US federal government research into Alzheimer’s.
The study, which looked at cognitive decline in mice, proposed that cognitive decline could be caused by a specific amyloid protein. Since then, the hypothesis has dominated the field, and researchers have spent years attempting to understand the mechanism by which such proteins may lead to decline.
âI focus on what we can see in the published images, and describe them as red flags, not final conclusions,â he told Science, when revealing his role as a whistleblower. âThe data should speak for itself.â
The heart of the matter is whether images in multiple papers were manipulated to better support a hypothesis, with the work of researcher Sylvain LesnÃ© under particular examination. LesnÃ©, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota, is now under investigation by the university.
His co-author on several papers is Dr Karen Ashe, also a University of Minnesota researcher and one of the most prominent Alzheimerâs researchers in the country. She described the potential manipulation of images as âdevastating,â to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, but criticized the idea that her research into amyloid proteins singularly guided federal and drug company spending.
Finding a treatment for Alzheimerâs has eluded scientists for decades. Although there are drugs to treat the symptoms of early and middle stage Alzheimerâs, only one drug has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the protein plaques associated with Alzheimerâs: aducanumab.
That drug, sold under the brand name Aduhelm and developed by Biogen, was the subject of its own controversy last year. As it was being considered for approval in 2021, multiple FDA officials said there was not enough evidence of its benefit to support approval.
Nevertheless, the agency approved the drug, which Biogen priced at $56,000. That prompted the resignation of three FDA officials, one of whom said there was âno good evidence the drug worksâ.
More than 6 million Americans are believed to be diagnosed with Alzheimerâs, according to theÂ National Institute on Aging. More thanÂ 850,000 people in the UKÂ suffer from dementia, according to the Alzheimerâs Society. – Reuters